Adult speech and language disorders
Aphasia is a language disorder that results from damage to the areas of the brain that assist with expression of and comprehension of language. A person with aphasia may exhibit difficulty with any one or more of the following:
Aphasia may be mild; in this case, a person may simply have difficulty finding words to express an idea. Aphasia may also be severe; in this case, a person may be unable to understand anything said to him or her and may say little or nothing at all.
Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder, often related to a stroke, head injury or other neurological disease resulting in changes in the muscle movements needed for speech. The face and mouth muscles, as well as the respiratory system, may be affected. Dysarthria can present in a variety of ways and can make speech very difficult to understand.
A person with dysarthria may present with some of the following symptoms:
• Slurred speech
• Low volume of speech, whisper
• Slow rate of speech
• Rapid rate of speech, or mumbling
• Changes in voice quality
• Incoordination of speech, sounding inebriated
• Difficulty moving mouth or face muscles
• Facial drooping on one side
• Irregular rhythm in speech
• Chewing or swallowing difficulty
Apraxis of speech
Apraxia of speech is another motor speech disorder, often resulting from damage to the brain by stroke or other injury or neurological disease. It occurs when damage is to the area of the brain that is responsible for the motor planning and sequencing of speech sounds. Individuals with apraxia of speech may exhibit difficulty moving their mouth structures on command (i.e. “stick out your tongue”). They also exhibit difficulty repeating what is said to them and saying words or sounds on command. However, they have more ease completing automatic tasks such as spontaneous responses, counting, saying the days of the week or saying the months of the year.
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a professional who can evaluate and treat adults with speech and language difficulties. A referral from the physician is often required for an initial evaluation by an SLP. During the evaluation, the SLP will listen to the individual in an informal setting, such as conversation, and may also complete a formal test to record and quantify errors, giving the SLP comparisons for the individual. An examination of the oral structures and hearing may also be included in the evaluation. If the SLP determines a disorder in the speech or language, he or she may recommend speech therapy for the individual.
Treatment for the individual with a speech or language disorder may target specific sounds, sound patterns or language to improve overall intelligibility. The treatment may include demonstrations of the correct sounds or words, training the individual to recognize errors, and practicing correct speech and language. The treatment may also focus on reading and/or writing, or may provide the individual with nonverbal options for communication. The treatment plan is individualized in each person’s situation to target the needs of the individual. The SLP should work closely with the individual and family to assist with generalization of therapy goals outside of the therapy session.